Is there any difference between dry and dehydrated skin? Many people just assume the words are interchangeable and mean basically the same thing so their go-to solution is usually to drink more water and keep moisturizing frequently which isn’t always the right solution.
However, if you ask a skincare professional, they’ll tell you that they’re not the same condition and they’re also treated differently. The first thing is to recognize the difference between the two. However there’s a common denominator, both are about the oil and water balance of your skin. In short, dry skin is when your skin is not producing enough oil on its own and can’t retain water without a minimum oil content. Adding water to dry skin will only dry it out further. It first needs oil to be able to hold moisture. Dehydrated skin produces enough oil but just doesn’t have enough water content to achieve a plumb and dewy skin.
Drinking a lot of water isn’t the solution contrary to popular belief, it can only help in maintaining a certain level of hydration.
How to Treat Dry Skin
Dry skin can look dull and be flakey. It’s necessary to use a gentle exfoliator so that oils, serums and moisturizers you use to combat dryness have a chance to penetrate. Gentle acids like lactic acid and glycolic acid get rid of surface dead skin and help cell turnover to reveal fresher looking and more absorbent skin.
When cleaning use a mild cleanser, a cleansing balm or oil which doesn’t leave your skin feeling tight and dry.
Most people shortcut the toner step but it’s really important to use a toner which doesn’t contain alcohol because it helps your other products penetrate better. Wipe your face with cotton soaked with toner post cleansing and while your face is still moist, apply a serum, wait a few minutes for it to absorb then top up with some moisturizer, sunscreen etc. The trick is not to leave your skin bare too long after cleansing, it dries out the skin which in turn prevents other products from sinking as deeply as it should and working effectively.
Finding the right moisturizers is important. With dry skin the barrier of the skin can be compromised and therefore become sensitive. It’s important to find a moisturizer that repairs the skin barrier so that it can retain water to achieve a soft and glowing complexion. Contrary to what people tend to think, a moisturizer doesn’t need to be thick or greasy to be effective. Its always a safe bet to opt for products that contain oils that are fairly similar to our natural oils such as squalane (not squalene), jojoba etc, it’s about learning to check the ingredient list and understanding what’s effective. Understanding labels on beauty products is a whole different topic which I will get into soon!
How to treat dehydrated skin
Even if you have oily, acne prone or normal skin, your skin can still be dehydrated. This can happen for several reasons, using products that are too harsh for your skin, air travel, too much alcohol and also as you age your skin generally becomes less efficient at retaining water.
A lot of the same tips apply to dry and dehydrated skin, exfoliating to rid your skin of surface dead cells, mild cleansers that maintain your skin’s PH balance etc but when choosing a moisturizer for dehydrated skin look for ones that have humectants and ingredients that can hold moisture or take water from the environment and draw it to your skin such as hyaluronic acid, algae, glycerin. Moisturizers for dehydrated skin have higher water content then moisturizers for dry skin which have higher oil content. Also if your skin tends to be oily or acne prone you would look for ingredients that are non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores or aggravate acne. Many people make the mistake of skipping the moisturizer if they have oily skin even if it’s dehydrated but that can further aggravate your skin barrier and therefore make your skin condition worse.
The other thing that dry and dehydrated skin have in common is that make-up doesn’t sit as well on either one of these skin conditions so if you need a quick fix for an important occasion which is also really beneficial for your skin, pop on a hydrating mask after cleansing and toning so that you minimize fine lines and wrinkles so that the make-up goes on a lot more smoothly and doesn’t settle into the lines. Make sure the mask is gel based and not clay based for maximum hydration.
Maintaining the correct oil and water balance is really essential for the health of your skin and its not a constant formula since your skin changes due to fluctuations in hormonal cycles, environmental factors, age etc. It’s important to monitor the behaviour of your skin so that you can tweak your routine as and when necessary in order to put your best face forward.